I love a lot of modern-day minimal-wave, synth-pop, electro-goth, what-have-you, but even so, it can be hard to really feel impressed – the style is so codified and the standards so rigid that it can be less like appreciating an artistic statement than a finely-calibrated machine. That’s why Keluar’s debut struck such a chord with me – they hit a variety of synth-wave signifiers but transcend any specific genre or easy reference point. Their songs are deep without being cavernous, poppy without being corny, technical without being nerdy, and most importantly, uniquely their own, thanks in no small part to the vocals of Zoè Zanias, previously of the short-lived (and fantastic) Linea Aspera. Who needs obscure reissues when there are groups like this today?

When did Keluar begin? Was there any overlap with Linea Aspera?
Zoè (vocals): We met at Linea Aspera’s show in Leipzig in May, 2012, and it was in the following months that Linea Aspera recorded the last of its material. As one ended, the other began.

How is the music written – is it a collaborative process, or are the vocals and music fairly separate entities in the creation process?
Zoè: A mix of both. The first drafts of the instrumentals come into existence in Sid’s studio, but are then altered depending on what direction the vocal melodies take. We usually work separately in the physical sense, and drafts will be sent back and forth a number of times before the song is complete. I will sometimes join Sid in the instrumental composition process, but the vocals are always written alone.

So should I assume neither of you live in close proximity? Or is it just easier for both of you to focus on your respective roles privately?
Zoè: We started out when I was in London and Sid was in Berlin. I’ve since moved to Berlin, but we live in different parts of the city and just happen to work separately a lot of the time.

I feel like Keluar, overall, is a bit ‘warmer’ than Linea Aspera… is that something intentional? Or is my interpretation incorrect?
Zoè: Depends on the songs, but yes, in Keluar we use a lot less reverb, which leads to a warmer sound in general. The production deliberately evokes a smaller space, both in the instrumentals and vocals.

Is that something that was intentional, the warmer, “smaller” sound? So often synth- and electronic-based groups sound cold, but often that’s part of the appeal.
Zoè: The intention is to have a clear sound that is more direct and powerful. The sound itself isn’t smaller, but the rooms we use are. Whether it’s cold or warm is merely a side effect, and also depends upon the atmosphere we’re aiming to create in each individual song. We do not strive for either ‘temperature’, as it were, in the way some current bands seem to do.

Visually, and from your song titles and lyrical allusions, I get the impression that science and the natural world are a big influence, or muse, maybe. Is that something you’ve personally studied?
Zoè: I grew up in the rainforests of Southeast Asia assisting my mother, who is a tropical aquatic biologist. A fascination with the natural world is in my blood, and I find scientific language a particularly beautiful one. My educational background is actually in archaeology, with a focus on human evolution, but in the future I envision myself working more closely with living primates rather than dead ones. Lyrically, my most influential ecosystems are probably oceanic ones. There’s something about vast expanses of water that both enraptures and terrifies me.

That seems like a good way to describe Keluar in a way, both enrapturing and terrifying.
Zoè: That’s actually a very nice compliment! Thank you!

I’ve seen Keluar described as a more “experimental” group than Linea Aspera, and I thought that was interesting, if not something I necessarily agreed with. Is there anything you were trying or “experimenting” with Keluar, that you hadn’t before?
Zoè: Sid’s better at answering questions on the instrumentals…
Sid (synths, programming): I don’t really know what exactly “experimental” means in that comparison. The way I compose is always an experiment. “What happens if I plug this into that?”, or “What happens if I add this note to that note?”, or “What happens if swap this part with that part?”. If your question points to the genre “Experimental”, you need to tell me what this can be defined as, so I can try to answer.

Honestly, I don’t know what is meant by “experimental” when people use it either, because all music is kind of an experiment in that regard, and the idea of “experimental” as a genre seems ill-fitting – how can there be so many similar-sounding experiments? Is there any particular genre you’d file Keluar in?
Sid: It seems to be paradox. Nevertheless, I have an idea of what it sounds like when people consider something “Experimental” – and that is not what Keluar sounds like. But I guess the term “Experimental” is actually misleading, as you pointed out.
Zoè: Perhaps what people are detecting is the fact that Keluar has a few more sounds that are a bit unexpected, and that’s something people tend to associate with something being “experimental”. I’d agree we don’t fit into it as a genre title though.

Was there anything you particularly wanted to avoid aesthetically with Keluar?
Zoè: We’re more about aims than avoidance, but too much consonance is one thing we veer away from.

I understand you just finished up a tour… how did it go? Any particularly memorable shows? What constitutes a really great show for you?
Zoè: Finished up a large portion of it, with a few dates left in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Brussels. So far it’s surpassed our expectations in most ways. Almost every show felt like ‘the best so far’, and every audience made us feel welcome and appreciated. Really our main concern is having good sound on stage, without which its easy to lose focus and confidence. We were mostly pretty lucky. London and Athens stand out as my personal favourites, mainly because the audiences consisted of some of my favourite people on Earth, and I was proud to share the stage with some amazing performers those nights as well – Ashkelon (London) and Hawk Haven of Flesh United (Athens), for example.

Do people dance to Keluar? What artists would you want to hear if you were going out dancing?
Zoè: Of course. Isn’t that what gigs are for? Sometimes I’m proud to hold a crowd still for a moment – it often happens during the first chorus of one of our new songs, and can be my favourite moment of a gig.
Sid: We have songs that aim for making people dance, others don’t. I know it from myself: on a good concert, the fascination of the performance can make you stand still. And some sounds move the mind rather than the body. So body motion is not an important indicator for me. When I want to go dancing, I’m hoping to hear EBM-related techno. I can enjoy dancing to minimal wave, but it’s too soft for serious action.
Zoè: Dancing is the main aim when I go out, and depending on the mood I can be inclined to move to anything from minimal techno to EBM, new beat, post-punk and minimal wave.

What’s next for Keluar?
Zoè: We’re currently working on a new EP, with an LP in our sights for 2014.